What is the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor?
Perhaps not as well known as some of the others, the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor is one of the 12 Measure R transit projects. The project is currently in the Alternatives Analysis (AA) phase in which different types of transit and alignments for the corridor are being studied.
The recently-opened Orange Line Extension runs along Canoga Avenue and serves the western side of the Valley. The East San Fernando Valley project, as the name implies, is intended to help north-south travel further east.
After reviewing options as far east as Lankershim, it was decided to focus the study within the Van Nuys and Sepulveda Boulevard corridors. With about 23,000 boardings on an average weekday, Van Nuys is the heaviest travelled north-south corridor in the San Fernando Valley. And it’s the 2nd heaviest corridor in the Valley behind the Metro Orange Line. Based on community input and the proximity of Sepulveda Boulevard, Metro staff decided to evaluate that street as well.
Staff reported all this to the Metro Board earlier this year. Here’s the staff report (pdf).
So what happens now?
Metro will be holding community meetings later this year to share information on the options being explored and to gather public input. We’ll post that information just as soon as it’s available.
The two big questions obviously are what will the route be for the project and what kind of project will it be? Light rail? Bus Rapid Transit? Something else?
The short answer for now: we don’t yet know. One purpose of this early stage of environmental analysis is to determine what makes the most sense transit-wise given the needs and demands in this corridor. Once the options are narrowed down, further stages of analysis will delve into the environmental impacts of those alternatives.
When it comes to routes, the project could extend as far south as Ventura Boulevard and as far north as the Sylmar Metrolink station or the 210 Freeway. In between, it could generally follow Van Nuys Boulevard, Sepulveda Boulevard or a hybrid of both.
As required, the study also has to evaluate different types of travel options, known as “modes” in the parlance of planners. These include bus rapid transit, possibly like the current Orange Line, and light rail, such as the current Blue, Green, Gold and Expo Lines. The evaluation also has to consider a “transportation systems management” alternative that would enhance existing transit services and make other low cost upgrades to improve traffic flow in the corridor. Lastly, the study is required by law to evaluate a “no-build” option.
Various factors will be used to weigh the alternatives including ridership, travel speed and reliability, connectivity with the regional transit network, cost-effectiveness, economic and land-use considerations, community input and others. Currently, the project has been allotted $170.1 million, with most of that money coming from Measure R. That money has to cover the cost of the environmental studies as well as construction for the project itself. Staff may try to seek additional funds from the federal government, but that is still down the road.
Many Source readers and those who have left comments on the project’s Facebook page have said they favor a light-rail alternative. If that happens, the project will also need to acquire land and build a yard to store and maintain the cars — since the project wouldn’t connect with other Metro light rail lines. Metro already has two bus divisions in the San Fernando Valley. For the sake of comparison, phase one of the newly opened Expo Line cost $932 million for 8.6 miles of light rail. An East San Fernando Valley transit project that stretches the full length of the study area could be 11 or twelve miles long.
We know your next two questions: What about the future Sepulveda Pass Transit project? Shouldn’t this project connect with that one?
That is a separate project. Under the current Measure R schedule, the East San Fernando Valley project is scheduled to be complete by 2018, 21 years before the Sepulveda Pass project which isn’t scheduled to open until 2039. The East San Fernando Valley project is something that could provide needed mobility benefits within just a few short years and still be planned to connect with the future Sepulveda Pass project. We wrote about that recently.
It might make sense to combine the two projects sooner if the Sepulveda Pass can be accelerated — although that project has funding challenges, too, as it will likely cost more than the $1 billion allocated to it by Measure R. Given those uncertainties, it may be best to do something as soon as possible for north-south commuters in the Valley and to build a project that can be smartly linked to a future Sepulveda Pass project.
Once this AA phase of the study is completed, it is expected that some of the options will move forward for further evaluation with the preparation of an environmental impact statement/environmental impact report. That could begin this winter.
So, what kind of a project do you like? What route? And, if funding is limited, what would do you think about phasing the project? Let us know.